There’s no shortage of subscription boxes these days. From clothing and deodorant to spices and alcohol, you can arrange for almost anything to arrive — packaged and pretty — at your door. So long, errands!
I can’t say I’ve fully hopped on the subscription box train quite yet, but I do make an exception for my meal subscription box. And it’s not just about convenience, either (though that’s certainly a bonus). It’s actually made my life much easier as a person in eating disorder recovery.
You see, cooking while living with disordered eating is… complicated, to say the least.
First, there’s making a shopping list. While this process has gotten easier for me over the years, it’s still incredibly triggering to sit down and decide what foods I’m going to eat and when.
I struggle with orthorexia, an eating disorder that involves an unhealthy obsession with “healthy” eating.
I have memories of staying up all night planning my meals and snacks (down to the smallest bite of something) days in advance. Deciding what foods I’m going to be eating ahead of time can still be stressful.
Then there’s the actual grocery shopping. I already struggle with this weekly task, since I live with sensory processing disorder and anxiety. I’m easily overwhelmed in spaces with lots of people, sounds, and movement (AKA, Trader Joe’s on a Sunday).
The second I walk into a busy grocery store, I’m completely lost. Even well-prepped shopping lists can’t do much to help the anxiety I experience while standing in front of an overcrowded shelf, stocked with five versions of the same item.
Which brand of peanut butter is the best? Should I go for the low-fat or full-fat cheese? Regular or Greek yogurt? Why are there SO many noodle shapes???
You get the picture.
Grocery shopping can be overwhelming for anybody, but when you have a history of disordered eating, there’s an added layer of fear and shame that goes into every seemingly small decision surrounding food.
Sometimes, it’s easier to just NOT make the decision — to walk away without picking up any of the brands of peanut butter.
There have been numerous times where I’ve left the market without getting anything I really wanted or needed, simply because in that moment, my body went into fight-or-flight mode. And since you can’t fight a jar of peanut butter, I took flight... straight out of the store.
That’s why I needed something that made buying, preparing, and eating food at home as easy as possible. Cue: subscription boxes.
Some tips for healthfully navigating your subscription box
Ready to give meal subscription boxes a go? I’ve been using the service for over a year now, so let me give you some pointers as a fellow recovery warrior.
1. Throw away the nutrition facts page (or request that it not be included)
Rather recently, Blue Apron (the service that I use) started sending a printout of the nutrition facts for every meal in their weekly box.
I’m not sure about other companies’ protocols when it comes to sharing nutritional info, but my advice is: Throw. This. Page. Away.
Seriously, don’t even look at it — and if you’re comfortable doing so, check in with customer service to see if it can be excluded from your box altogether.
If you’re like me and you’ve been haunted by calorie counts and nutrition labels for years, a page like this is only going to do harm.
Instead, take pride in the fact that you’re making a home-cooked meal and doing something nourishing for your body. Don’t let fears around what you should or shouldn’t eat get in the way of your active recovery practice.
2. Stick to your comfort zone... in the beginning
Before my meal subscription box, I had never cooked meat. A lot of my food-based fears actually revolved around animal products.
In fact, I was vegan for years because it was an “easy” way to restrict my food intake (this is not everybody’s experience with veganism, obviously, but this was how it intersected with my eating disorder specifically).
Blue Apron offers a lot of meat-based protein options, and I was initially super intimidated. So, I stuck to what I knew and what I felt comfortable eating for a while: a lot of noodles, rice bowls, and other vegetarian dishes.
After some time, though, I ordered my first meat-based dish and finally conquered my lifelong fear of raw meat. It was incredibly empowering, and I’d encourage you to first get comfortable with your go-to safe foods and dishes, whatever those are for you, and then venture out!
3. Share your meals with a loved one
Preparing and eating food alone can be scary — especially if you’re experimenting with a meal outside of your comfort zone.
I’ve found that having my partner or a friend sit with me while I cook, and then share a meal with me, is incredibly comforting and rewarding.
Food brings people together, and when you’ve been living with a broken relationship to food, it’s easy to feel disconnected from the social aspects of eating. What better way to connect with a loved one and reestablish a healthy relationship with eating than to share something delicious that you made?
If you find yourself stressed about grocery shopping or cooking, you may want to look into a meal subscription box service.
I’ve found that it’s alleviated a lot of stress from my weekly routine, and has gotten me cooking for the first time in my life. There are so many to choose from, so do some shopping around for the right subscription box for you.
Brittany is a San Francisco-based writer and editor. She’s passionate about disordered eating awareness and recovery, which she leads a support group on. In her spare time, she obsesses over her cat and being queer. She currently works as Healthline’s social editor. You can find her thriving on Instagram and failing on Twitter (seriously, she has like 20 followers).